Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Fun, quick read about building on ideas in your own creative way. Great quotes throughout the book. Didn’t like it as much as “Show Your Work.”

My Notes

First, you figure out what’s worth stealing, then you move on to the next thing.

What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.

If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.

You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.

Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.

Read bibliographies. It’s not the book you start with, it’s the book that book leads you to.

Carry a notebook and a pen with you wherever you go.

it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.

You’re ready. Start making stuff.

“impostor syndrome.”

Guess what: None of us do. Ask anybody doing truly creative work, and they’ll tell you the truth: They don’t know where the good stuff comes from.

“You start out as a phony and become real.”

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”

First, you have to figure out who to copy. Second, you have to figure out what to copy.

You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.

That’s what you really want—to internalize their way of looking at the world.

If you just mimic the surface of somebody’s work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a knockoff.

Conan O’Brien tried to be David Letterman but ended up Conan O’Brien. In O’Brien’s words, “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.”

In the end, merely imitating your heroes is not flattering them. Transforming their work into something of your own is how you flatter them. Adding something to the world that only you can add.

“What should I write?” And the standard answer is, “Write what you know.” This advice always leads to terrible stories in which nothing interesting happens.

The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like.

Write the kind of story you like best—write the story you want to read.

Whenever you’re at a loss for what move to make next, just ask yourself, “What would make a better story?”

Think about your favorite work and your creative heroes. What did they miss? What didn’t they make? What could’ve been made better?

The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use—do the work you want to see done.

“I have stared long enough at the glowing flat rectangles of computer screens. Let us give more time for doing things in the real world . . . plant a plant, walk the dogs, read a real book, go to the opera.” —Edward Tufte

The computer is really good for editing your ideas, and it’s really good for getting your ideas ready for publishing out into the world, but it’s not really good for generating ideas.

The computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in us—we start editing ideas before we have them.

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” —Jessica Hische

I think it’s good to have a lot of projects going at once so you can bounce between them.

you learn that most of the world doesn’t necessarily care about what you think.

As the writer Steven Pressfield says, “It’s not that people are mean or cruel, they’re just busy.”

This is actually a good thing, because you want attention only after you’re doing really good work. There’s no pressure when you’re unknown. You can do what you want.

there’s only one not-so-secret formula that I know: Do good work and share it with people.

Step one, “do good work,” is incredibly hard. There are no shortcuts. Make stuff every day. Know you’re going to suck for a while. Fail. Get better.

You should wonder at the things nobody else is wondering about. If everybody’s wondering about apples, go wonder about oranges.

The more open you are about sharing your passions, the closer people will feel to your work.

You don’t put yourself online only because you have something to say—you can put yourself online to find something to say.

The Internet can be more than just a resting place to publish your finished ideas—it can also be an incubator for ideas that aren’t fully formed, a birthing center for developing work that you haven’t started yet.

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” —Howard Aiken

I always carry a book, a pen, and a notepad, and I always enjoy my solitude and temporary captivity.

“The only mofos in my circle are people that I can learn from.” —Questlove

“Complain about the way other people make software by making software.” —Andre Torrez

really out of luck.) So, I recommend public fan letters.

The important thing is that you show your appreciation without expecting anything in return, and that you get new work out of the appreciation.

Once you put your work into the world, you have no control over the way people will react to it.

So get comfortable with being misunderstood, disparaged, or ignored—the trick is to be too busy doing your work to care.

It takes a lot of energy to be creative. You don’t have that energy if you waste it on other stuff.